BY EDDIE DILWORTH
CAVS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - From this point forward, everything counts.
The Cleveland Cavaliers concluded their brief two-game preseason series with the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night, dropping a nail-biter 90-89.
"Despite the L, which really is not important at this time, I thought we did a lot of good things especially on the defensive end," Cavs head coach Byron Scott said. "Offensively, it's just a little bit behind."
Newcomer Omri Casspi lead the Cavaliers' offensive attack with 18 points to go along with five rebounds after coming off the bench in the first quarter. Casspi, a 6-foot-9 forward who was acquired from the Sacramento Kings in June in a deal for J.J. Hickson, showed good quickness and ball-handling skills for his size. However, Casspi mishandled the ball in the game's most crucial moments, the final seconds of the contest.
Leading 89-88 with seven seconds left in the contest, Cleveland merely needed to inbound the ball cleanly to escape with a probable victory. Instead, Casspi's inbounds pass was stolen and Pistons forward Austin Daye raced down the floor. Daye (game-high 19 points) was fouled and converted both free throws, leaving the Cavs with a 90-89 deficit and three seconds to work with.
"I thought AP (Anthony Parker) was open," Casspi said. "They did a good job pressing the ball; they put Austin on me and you guys know he has long arms. I should have called timeout."
Casspi found himself with a shot at redemption on the final possession. With three seconds showing, Casspi inbounded the ball to a wide open Luke Harangody, who stood alone about five feet from the basket. It was as if Harangody could not believe there was nary a Piston within five feet of him because he rushed a short jumper that clanged off the rim. The horn sounded and the Cavs fell, splitting their preseason series with Detroit.
"That was a situation that I thought was great for our young guys," Scott said. "It's a learning situation and hopefully if it happens again that we've learned from that situation and we'll do a much better job."
Scott did reveal that Casspi has done enough since his arrival in Cleveland to earn the starting job when the season opens on Dec. 26. As for Cavs No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving, Scott remains tight-lipped about his role.
Irving entered his second-straight game from the bench, but once again showed the flair of a promising player. He finished with 11 points and three assists while showing the burst to blow by defenders for easy layups and floaters. He will play in his first regular season NBA game on the 26th.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Irving said. "It's the day after Christmas and I get to spend it with my teammates and my family."
Ramon Sessions started both preseason games at point guard for Cleveland. He averaged six points and seven assists in the two contests, while Irving produced several highlights and a 16-point average. It seems as if it's only a matter of time before Irving takes the lead as starter.
"He got better from game one to game two and I think he will keep improving," Scott said of his first-year point guard.
Antawn Jamison chipped in 13 points in 24 minutes while Parker added 12 points and five rebounds.
Cleveland opens the regular season in Quicken Loans Arena against the Toronto Raptors.
"I know my teammates are going to be ready and I'm going to be right along with them," Irving said.